Nov 1, 2010

No place like an ice rink for the holidays

We're coming up to the holiday season, with family in town and time off from school. I've already been fielding questions about what skates to buy those new skaters for Hanukkah or Christmas.

It's a great time to think about skating just for fun, or getting a little extra practice time in. A lot of rinks have extra public and practice ice during the holidays, so here's some things to do:

Have a family skate day
Especially if your rink has a "studio" sheet (a smaller sheet of ice, typically 1/3 the size of an NHL standard sheet), think about renting it for the day after Christmas or for New Year's Day or New Year's Eve (or just any random school break day). A skating rink is surprisingly cheap to rent (generally around $100 for studio rinks in the Chicago area, your pricing may vary), and the rink will often also have a package that includes a party room and skate rentals. If you've got family in town that you need to entertain, this is a great all-ages activity. (Some rinks will even let you put Grandma in a chair and push her around!)

Arrange a holiday exhibition
Again, rent the rink and have the young skaters in your family put together a show for the relatives-- they can invite their friends to skate, and even choreograph their own synchro or theater on ice number. Kids as young as 10 can handle this with guidance, and teens can do it on their own (um, using your money...). Probably best to rent the big rink for this, but even that can be surprisingly cost effective, especially if you share the price with other families. And with on-line media, it's really easy to get the word out. Add an auction or a gift bin and donate the proceeds to Toys for Tots.

Arrange for a group lesson with your rink or area's "favorite son"

Does your coach know any famous skaters? (Hint-- yes. We all do, figure skating is a very small world.) See if they could arrange for someone from Jason Brown (at the getting famous end of the spectrum) to Ben Agosto (superstar!) to come and do a group lesson (any level), especially if they know they'll be in town for the holidays, so you're not paying travel costs or accommodations. If you're at this skater's home rink, chances are they'll be at least receptive if not eager to come. (Again, possible rink rental, definitely coaching fee or really really nice gift.) Make sure to have someone to take pictures and arrange for the skater to do autographs.

Add extra practice time
The kids are off school and under foot. Find out if the rink has added additional practice times or is running clinics. Some programs even run all-day mini-camps and clinics the week between Christmas and New Year. If your rink doesn't offer a program, see if your coach can set one up. With 5 or 10 kids in a group, this can be way cheaper than taking the week off work.

Going to a winter holiday?
Bring those skates! If you're heading to Lake Placid, Southern California, Boston, or Denver, you're bound to be near some famous ice rink. Bring your skates and skate on Olympic ice. My friend Adam ended up with a friendly (free) lesson from no less than Brian Orser at Lake Placid recently, just because they happened to be on the ice together.

Take a break
If your competitive skater is "done" with their season-- i.e. didn't make it past Sectionals-- think about offering them this time off. Have them try hockey, or basketball mini-camp, or volunteering in reading corner at the library for a week. Or just let them hang out all day playing video games. Skaters work really hard and need rewards too! (Chances are by Day 3, they'll be begging to go to the rink).

What are you planning with your skating this holiday season?

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